A/N: And now for something . . . slightly more ambitious. Never thought I'd embark on what might turn out to be an epic, but the size and persistence of this plot bunny are demanding nothing less. Of course, the $64,000 question is: can "Voyagers!" and "epic" exist in the same conceptual space? Will contain some angst, some adventure, and a whole lot of backstory.
Disclaimer: Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones belong to Scholastic Productions, James D. Parriott Productions, and Universal-MCA Entertainment.
A STITCH IN TIME
The grass was long, lush, and soft. Not as ideal as a haystack or a pile of pillows, Phineas Bogg reflected as he struck the ground and rolled down a shallow slope, but there were worse things to land on. Recovering, he stretched his limbs and sat up, looking around for his partner. Fortunately, Jeffrey had landed only a few feet away and appeared unharmed.
"We did it, kid!" Bogg reported. "Got Sam Pepys and Nell Gwyn to safety, even if things got a little hot at the end. You okay?"
For answer, Jeffrey rolled over onto all fours and began coughing as if his lungs were turning inside out.
"Hey . . . " Bogg made his way quickly to the boy's side. The kid reeked of smoke; they both did--hanging around the Great Fire of London tended to do that to a person.
"Easy, Jeff, easy," Bogg soothed, rubbing the small of the boy's back as he continued to cough and wheeze. "Just relax--take shallow breaths."
Dark eyes glared up at him blearily. "Can't -- take -- any -- breaths," Jeffrey rasped before going off into another paroxysm of coughing.
"And don't try to talk," Bogg admonished sternly. Reaching out, he rolled the boy gently onto his back and began to massage his abdomen. Too exhausted to resist, Jeffrey lay where he was, eyes closed.
After several minutes, Bogg sat back on his haunches. "Any better?"
The boy took a shallow, experimental breath, marred by only the faintest wheeze. Then another, and another, more easily. Color was creeping back into his cheeks, Bogg noted with relief.
A few more breaths, then -- "Where?" Jeffrey finally croaked out, flapping one hand in Bogg's direction.
After nearly two years of partnership, Bogg had no difficulty translating. Unclasping the Omni from his belt, he flipped open the lid. "France, 1784. And it's a green light, which is fine by me. I'm gonna assume it's fine by you too."
"Uhh," was the only response he got from the boy.
Undaunted, Bogg continued. "We worked pretty hard on this one, so I figure we're entitled to a few hours off. We can rest here for a while, maybe find something to eat before we go back into the field. Sound okay?"
Jeffrey only nodded, his eyes still closed, but Bogg thought his breathing had become deeper and more natural. At this rate, it wouldn't be long before the kid was back to being his normal, smart-mouthed self. And though Bogg would never admit this to Jeffrey's face, he'd be relieved when it happened.
Leaning back in the grass, the older Voyager gazed idly up at the sky, soft blue and laced with fleecy clouds. A beautiful day, neither too hot nor too cold. And if they were in France, the food would probably be decent, a change from the beef jerky Jeff not infrequently complained about.
He glanced over at his partner again, saw that the boy had raised himself on one elbow and was looking around with more than a trace of interest.
"France, you said?" Jeffrey's voice was still slightly hoarse from the smoke but clear enough.
Bogg smiled. "Welcome back, kid. " He consulted the Omni again. "Yep. France--Provence, if you want specifics. April 10, 1784."
"Before the Revolution."
Bogg shrugged. "You're the expert--I assume you'd know."
Jeffrey frowned to himself, then looked up again, his expression lightening. "No wars at all right now," he announced.
"Even better." Bogg got to his feet, dusting bits of grass and twig from his breeches. "Feeling okay, Jeff? I thought we'd go look for some lunch."
"I could eat," the boy admitted after a moment's consideration. "I just hope everything doesn't taste like smoke!"
"It'll be fine," Bogg reassured him. "We're in France. I don't think I've had a bad meal here yet." Shading his eyes with one hand, he gazed off towards the rooftops a short distance away. "Those look like farmhouses. Maybe they'll swap us a meal for some chores, or maybe I can just pay them for a loaf of bread and some sausage--"
"Okay, maybe we'll skip the sausage--it'd probably be smoked anyway. We'll ask for a round of cheese instead."
He spun around at the sharp note of fear in the kid's voice. Jeffrey had managed to rise, but he was swaying on his feet, his face ashen and his eyes oddly unfocused as he stared up at his partner. "I don't -- feel so good . . . "
"Jeff!" Alarmed, the older Voyager sprang forward and caught the boy as he fell, limp as a string-cut puppet. Then, suddenly, Bogg felt a familiar jerking sensation and the world around them winked out, as though a switch had been flipped.
He had time for one last startled thought--But I never touched the Omni!--before the swirling lights and motion of the cosmos overtook them both.
TO BE CONTINUED